A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Buyer Persona

Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing consultant with over 8 years of experience working to help Fortune 500 brands grow their online presence. He currently resides in Miami, where he owns boutique creative agency WEBRIS. You can find Ryan on Linkedin or Twitter

Buyers are the lifeline of your business. They are the bread and butter that keep business nourished. Without them, there’s no business.

When you created your business, you had a customer in mind; someone that would use your product or have a need for your service. You may be surprised to learn that your envisioned customer may not represent your actual buyers. Or, it may only represent a small fraction of a much larger audience or demographic.

In any event, when you misjudge who your customers are, you run the risk of neglecting potential customers so that they either don’t know about your business or are disenchanted to the point that they choose a competitor’s products instead.

Thus, it becomes imperative that you develop an accurate buyer persona to ensure you produce the most revenue by attracting the right customers.  The right buyer persona will also help you avoid missing major market segments that would find your business helpful.  Simply put, developing a buyer persona will ensure that you’re not pushing your current customers into the hands of competitors.

What is a Buyer Persona?

Essentially, the buyer persona is the who, what, where, when, why and how that make up your customers.

What is buyers persona

Who is the consumer archetypes or demographics that comprise your buying force If you are selling handmade pet collars on Etsy, the overarching archetype is pet owners. Within that category, however, there are more specific details related to the “who”.   There’s age, gender, income level, etc.. In other words, your handmade pet collars might not appeal to every pet owner, but only upper-middle class pet owners between the ages of 22-30 that have the disposable income available to them to spend on handmade pet accessories.

What are your clients hoping to accomplish by buying your products or utilizing your service? When you understand their goals, you can better market your offerings. Sometimes these goals are obvious, but often they require some deeper investigation.  An obvious way to get started mastering this step is to simply ask your buyers what they hope your products or services will do for them.

Where is rather straightforward — where are your customers shopping? In the Digital Age, there are more buying channels to leverage than ever before. More and more consumers are turning to online shopping. In fact, 80% of consumers shop online once a month, many of them on a weekly basis. For businesses that deal exclusively with online sales, the where is an even bigger challenge because of how many potential channels there are. Are customers primarily shopping through your Etsy page? On Ebay? Your website?

When is also another seemingly straightforward concept, yet there are a lot of different components to the when once you look under the hood. The most immediate definition of “when” is what time of the day, week or year that your buyers make purchasing decisions. By having these insights, you know when to target marketing and ad campaigns. Alternatively, you can use this information to target sales and other promotions to help stimulate periods of traditionally low buying and encourage inactive customers to convert to buyers.

Why is one of the hardest questions to solve because, unless you are a mind reader, you have to ask your customers to find the answer. “Why” is the tipping point or influencer that ultimately pushes the customer past being reluctant and towards becoming an active buyer.

Why do your customers decide to convert? Getting them to open up about this Why can be difficult. While some businesses succeed with surveys and questionnaires, customers can be a little reluctant to share any insights into their buying behaviors. Thus, some companies utilize third-party survey or research companies, which create a more comfortable environment for the customer to open up because they don’t feel they are talking directly to a brand representative.

“How” is strictly activity-based. How were buyers influenced by your marketing efforts? Did they buy because of a discount or gift card? Did they come to your storefront because of blog content or a social media post? These interactions and their effect on a purchasing decision are necessary for calculating the return-on-investment (ROI) of any of your marketing strategies and thereby determining their effectiveness for future campaigns.

Creating Your Business’ Buyer Persona

Answering all the above questions is not always easy. And, without at least some idea as to an answer to each question, you have an incomplete buyer persona. Luckily for business owners, the Digital Age and its bounty of Big Data sources are the perfect tools for discovering valuable insight into your buyer persona. Specifically, data provides a means to paint a clear picture of who your buyers are. This includes their demographics, interests, motivations and much more.

Tap into Big Data Resources

Creating Buyers Persona - from Big data

If you’re new to the concepts of Big Data and analytics, here’s a basic overview. Because of the hyper-connected nature of today’s digital world, businesses have more access to customers than ever before. We interact with them on Facebook, through email and other channels. They not only visit our brick and mortar stores, but they also visit our websites. These brand-customer interactions create data — a lot of it — and all that data holds valuable insights.

More often than not, business owners don’t have the time to read every Facebook comment or regularly monitor web traffic. Thus, analytics provides a way to process all this data from different sources into more accessible numbers and information.

What’s even better is that many of your existing tools and pages, like Facebook, Twitter, MailChimp, and others, have readily available data for you to access and investigate. Your website or Etsy page traffic can be another treasure trove of valuable data. To make the most out of this gold mine, it is recommended that you set your website up with Google Analytics.

Analytics is free, and Google offers tons of tutorials to help business owners connect their site to this very helpful service. If you haven’t already done this, then this is step one, as Google Analytics is one of the most powerful buyer persona tools available to you. It will tell you the interests, ages, locations, genders and other important traits about your website visitors.

Once you’ve successfully tapped into your available data sources, you’ll begin to see a much clearer picture of your buyer persona. But, as we mentioned before, there are still some questions that even data can’t fully answer for you. These areas of the buyer persona typically have to be discovered through customer surveys.

Hire a Polling Service

Creating Your Business’ Buyer Persona - Poll

Today, there are a number of survey and polling tools that you can use. You can conduct a survey right through your Facebook or Twitter pages. Google also has a polling tool that is free to use.

Some businesses are hesitant to poll their customers because they have a misguided fear that this shows uncertainty or even weakness. The reality is quite different. Today’s consumers want to be asked.

While they may be reluctant to share personal information about themselves, they are open to sharing what they think about your brand or business. In other words, don’t formulate your survey questions in ways that make it seem like you are asking about them (at least nothing too prying). Instead, create questions that ask specifically about how you can improve.

By disarming the natural consumer reluctance, they’ll open up, and when they share insight into how you can improve, they’ll reveal quite a bit about themselves and their wants and desires in the process.

I Have Customers, Why Do I Care About Buyer Persona?

Why Do I Care About Buyer Persona?

Creating a buyer persona is essential for attracting customers when your business is in its early stages. But, it remains an important aspect of running a business because this persona is dynamic, meaning the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors of your customers change day-to-day and week-to-week.

What worked today, isn’t necessarily going to work tomorrow. Thus, even if your business is doing well now, you have to be prepared for a shift in behaviors and thereby a shift in the persona.

When you keep track of your customer interactions and routinely ask for their thoughts and opinions, you gain the ability to stay on top of these attitude changes, and you are better prepared to adjust to meet the customer’s needs. In today’s marketplace, customer experience is king, even more than the quality and price of your products.

This means that customers pledge their brand loyalty to the businesses that cater to their interests and needs and thereby deliver to them the best customer-brand relationship. The more you develop your buyer persona and learn about your customers, the stronger this relationship will become and the easier it will be to cultivate.

An understanding of buyer persona is also helpful when you want to attract new groups or demographics of customers. Perhaps, your business has new product offerings that are designed for different types of people than your traditional customers. For example, Deloitte, a UK-based audit, consulting and risk management firm was traditionally a B2B firm that did business with various corporations. But, they wanted to move into working with smaller businesses and even families.

To get an idea of how this previously untapped consumer base operates, they conducted research into a buyer persona. This allowed them to craft appropriate marketing messages and create a brand story that resonated with their new leads.

Deloitte partnered with a third-party marketing research company to conduct their investigation into this new buyer persona. By not approaching customers directly and using this external team to survey current customers, Deloitte was able to procure more detailed, honest insights into why these customers had chosen Deloitte and what they wanted. This allowed the audit/consulting company to get an overall picture of how these buyers ultimately arrived at making a purchase with Deloitte, instead of a competitor.

All of this information made it possible for Deloitte to efficiently grow their business from strictly B2B, to also include a B2C component.


If you need any more convincing, then consider the numbers: 71% of companies that develop a well-researched buyer persona not only meet their revenue and lead converting goals but exceed them. A solid buyer persona allows businesses to convert approximately three out of every four leads.

But again, the power of buyer persona doesn’t stop at just converting leads. It’s also a robust tool for nurturing those leads into long-term, brand-loyal customers. When you consider that the buyer is the bread and butter of any business’ life cycle, then buyer persona is a means to practically guarantee that, that life cycle continues.

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